Discussion Paper

Forest Carbon Sequestration: Some Issues for Forest Investments

Aug 1, 2001 | Roger A. Sedjo

Abstract

<p>A major problem being faced by human society is that the global temperature is believed to be rising due to human activity that releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, i.e., global warming. The major culprit is thought to be fossil fuel burning, which is releasing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The problem of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide can be addressed a number of ways. One of these is forestry and forest management.</p><p>This paper examines a number of current issues related to mitigating the global warming problem through forestry. First, the overall carbon cycle is described, and the potential impact of forests on the buildup of atmospheric carbon is examined. A major focus is the means by which forests and forest management can contribute to the sequestration of carbon. The potential role of forests and forestry in sequestrating carbon to reduce the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is now well recognized. A number of alternative approaches to utilizing forestry and forest management for carbon sequestration are examined. These include forest protection; the management of forests for carbon for joint products, i.e., the management of forests to generate both carbon and timber as products; the establishment of plantation forests dedicated to carbon sequestration; and increased production of wood products. Replacing other materials with wood will sequester carbon while reducing energy requirements, thereby reducing carbon emissions. Studies examining the costs of carbon sequestration using forestry are also discussed.</p><p>The recent Kyoto Protocol (K.P.) explicitly recognizes certain forestry activities as “certifiable” for sequestration credits. But some definitions and aspects of carbon sequestration through forestry were left incomplete or inadequately defined by the Protocol. Furthermore, the KP has changed due to the recent withdrawal of the US for the Protocol (although not from the Kyoto Process).</p><p>Nevertheless, further clarification is necessary to understand the full potential and set of opportunities from forestry both within the framework of the Protocol and more generally. Alternative types of vehicles for sequestration credits are discussed below,m both within and outside the context of the KP , and their advantages and disadvantages in terms of periods covered and liability are also examined. Finally, some ongoing real-world activities utilizing forestry specifically to sequester carbon are discussed.</p>